How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Bisbee Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bisbee AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Bisbee residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Bisbee AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Bisbee AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Bisbee AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Bisbee AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Bisbee AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Bisbee AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Bisbee AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Bisbee AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Bisbee AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bisbee AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Bisbee Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Bisbee residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bisbee Arizona.